Latest Xbox for PC Update Shows Microsoft is Listening to the Community

Now you can decide where to move or install your game files

Key Takeaways

  • Microsoft is currently testing a huge update to its Xbox App for PC in the Xbox Insider Hub.
  • The update brings a slew of changes to how users access and control their game files.
  • Microsoft has also bundled access to Xbox Cloud Gaming on PC with the update, giving players access to that, too.
A gamer playing computer games.

Alistair Berg / Getty Images

Microsoft's changes to enable more user control over game files in the Xbox for PC app might seem trivial, but the lasting impact behind this change could go a long way with the community.

Last week, Microsoft launched a new Insider update for its Xbox PC app. On top of bringing access to cloud gaming, the update will also allow users to freely access the install files for games they download. This is something that the Microsoft Store and the Xbox App for PC have both struggled with in the past, and it's something that has pushed PC gamers who are used to having open access to those files away. The update isn't a huge change, by most accounts, but the overall effect it could have on the community's support for Xbox gaming on PC is an entirely different story.

"The immediate impact of the Xbox/Windows change is mostly that it will allow users to install games outside of very specific file locations, making it easier for users to install games on different drives to manage storage, but it will also open up the possibility for users to mod games," Ben Wiley, Assistant Professor and Program Director for Game Production Management at Champlain College, told Lifewire via email. 

"I wouldn't describe this particular shift as especially seismic, but it's another clear step in Microsoft's growth as a multi-platform content company."

Building Bridges

It’s true that adding the ability to mod games more easily or just to access the game files without being restricted from viewing them aren’t huge changes. At least, not by basic definition. However, it’s the after that’s important to look at here. 

Over the past several years, Microsoft has steadily worked to improve the way that it supports PC gaming. This started with vows in the early 2010s, and eventually evolved to the introduction of Xbox Play Anywhere in 2016. Despite the push Play Anywhere made, it wasn’t enough to wholly bridge the gap that had grown between Microsoft’s PC and console gaming efforts. So, the company continued to build.

In 2017, Microsoft released Xbox Game Pass, a subscription service that would make it easier for console gamers to enjoy their favorite games without paying for them outright. It was a great idea, which received a lot of love, and eventually, Microsoft would unveil a version of the service designed just for PC in 2019.

While Game Pass for PC was a huge step in the right direction, the PC community was still frustrated with Microsoft’s efforts. 

Open Access

One of the most significant benefits of playing games on PC is being able to openly access game files, mod, or even just backup the files you’re using. Microsoft didn’t allow this, though. 

Instead, most game files were locked inside a restricted folder that you couldn’t access, even if you had the highest level of privileges on your PC. It was a smack in the face for the community, especially for those looking to play games that have grown heavily thanks to the modding community in the past several years—games like Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls and Fallout

Screenshot of a folder permission error on where games are stored on a computer.

Imgur

Those restrictions also made reinstalling Windows frustrating, especially if you had multiple games installed. Without accessing them, you couldn’t move them to an external hard drive to back them up. Instead, you’d have to accept the loss and redownload them, something that could take a while if you have a slower internet connection. With the update, though, you can install your games to different drives or move the files if you need to back them up for some reason.

By removing these locks, Microsoft isn’t just supporting a basic function PC gamers are used to. It’s also showing that it has been listening to the community’s complaints and taking them to heart. After years of feeling ignored and pushed to the side, that is arguably the biggest upgrade that Microsoft could bring to the table.

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